The president of the Turkish Football Federation has branded comments made by his German counterpart with regard to a meeting between Germany internationals Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan with Turkish president Recep Erdogan as “unacceptable”.
TFF president Tildirim Demiroren said it was “disturbing” to read tweets posted on DFB president Reinhard Grindel’s social media account, in which he claimed the pair had been “abused” into bolstering Erdogan’s current re-election campaign.
Erdogan, who is up for re-election next month, met Ozil and Gundogan, as well as Turkish international Cenk Tosun, in London where he is on an official state visit during which he will be received by The Queen and meet Prime Minster Theresa May.
Erdogan has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations including the jailing of several journalists, particularly in the aftermath of an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016.
Grindel initially waded into the argument on Monday, after pictures of the players presenting a shirt to Erdogan first appeared, with the DFB chairman insisting: “The DFB stand for values that are not sufficiently respected by Mr Erdogan.”
On Tuesday he softened his stance slightly, insisting that “both players (Ozil and Gundogan) know they made a mistake. People should be allowed to make mistakes.”
Demiroren retorted that it was “only natural” for the likes of Ozil and Gundogan, who are both of Turkish descent, to meet Erdogan, who is a former minor league player in Turkey.
And Demiroren also appeared to imply that his counterpart’s comments might have been intended to impact the race to host Euro 2024. Germany and Turkey are the only two bidders, with the winners set to be announced in September.
In a statement on the Turkish Football Federation’s website, Demiroren added: “It is a very well known fact that our president… as a former player, is a big football fan who has massively contributed to the progress of the game in Turkey.
“In that sense, his meeting with Germany international Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan as well as Turkey international striker Cenk Tosun…is only natural.
“It is a terrible mistake to mix politics with football as can be seen from the German president’s example.
“For its part, the Turkish Football Federation in no way will participate in such behaviour and will continue to comply with the rules set out by UEFA until the last moment of the UEFA EURO 2024 voting.”